The Commish Cracks the Whip

DESTIN - Mike Slive is generally a pretty mild mannered guy. The SEC Commissioner has kept a pretty low profile through most of his term while working to get the conference's schools all off probation and negotiating a mammoth new television contract. At the SEC spring meetings, that changed.

Slive stepped to the forefront on a number of issues confronting the SEC as well as college athletics as a whole.

The SEC's last six months have been marred by multiple episodes of infighting among some of the league's football coaches. Wednesday afternoon Slive addressed his coaches and made clear he wants the public disputes to cease.

"What's not good for one institution is not good for everybody in the league," Slive said. "We're all in this together."

Slive wanted his message to get across emphatically. In a conversation with the media, he described himself as "5-9 and 175-pounds, but I'm a heavyweight on this subject".

Coaching civility was not the only item on Slive's agenda. As the most recent head of the NCAA men's basketball tournament selection committee, he witnessed firsthand the conference getting just three teams in the field last season. Slive's agenda for basketball is to encourage them to play better teams, and he feels the coaches and ADs have been receptive.

"It's my hope that we substantially improve our non-conference scheduling and I think after we get through here this week then that will happen."

The SEC is considering making an NCAA proposal to cap the yearly number of football signees at 28, regardless of whether a school has enough qualify to actually use all 25 available scholarships or not. Ole Miss signed an astounding 37 players this year, which prompted the discussion. According to Slive, there's a chance the SEC may put the 28 signee limit into effect on it's own if it doesn't get NCAA approval.

The conference is about to begin a 15-year TV deal with CBS and ESPN which will generate major money for the 12 member universities. The extra windfall for each SEC school per year is expected to be around $6 million. While ESPN holds the rights to all games CBS does not air in football, the network is still sorting through the details of how they plan to distribute the games. There will apparently be an SEC football game of the week on ESPNU, an ESPN Regional over the air package in the former Raycom time slot, and games on ESPN and ESPN2.

Some games are being farmed out to smaller regional networks by ESPN. CSS, a cable network only available in some SEC areas, recently got the rights to six unspecified football matchups. According to Slive, there may be another deal with a similar outlet pending.

"We wanted to have at least one, if not two, regional cable packages and I think there's some other conversations still ongoing."

Slive anticipates the full details of the SEC's "platforms" will be available by the time the conference holds media days for football in late July.

While discussion of a college football playoff is not a hot topic in Destin, it has been getting tossed around in Washington lately. Slive doesn't feel that's a positive or necessary trend.

"The last time I looked, we're in a recession. We're fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We've got a health care program that desperately needs help," Slive said. "I would hope the Congress will make sure they work on these problems and let us take care of intercollegiate athletics."

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